Penn State Preview: Indiana

Pat Freiermuth and the Nittany Lions will kick off the much-anticipated 2020 season Saturday at Indiana. (Photo by Steve Manuel)

Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions this football season.

Game details: at Indiana, 3:30 p.m. kickoff, broadcast on FS1.

Venue: Memorial Stadium.

Weather forecast (via Accuweather): High of 56 degrees with clear skies.

The line: Penn State –5.5

All-time series: Penn State leads 22-1.

Last meeting (2019): Penn State won 34-27 in Happy Valley.

Throwback classic (2016): Penn State continued its trend of coming from behind, overcoming a 10-point deficit in the second half en route to winning the Big Ten title. The Hoosiers had the ball late with a chance to tie, though Torrence Brown recovered a fumble in the end zone for the final 45-31 margin.

The lead: Football is back. Or more specifically, Big Ten football is back, and so are the Nittany Lions. Some of the many questions swirling around the team are: How will the rushing attack fare (presumably) without Journey Brown, who will reportedly might miss the entire season because of a medical condition discovered during the offseason. Will the defense suffer a setback without Micah Parsons? How sharp will the offense be, and will it look different with Kirk Ciarrocca coming in from Minnesota? What will it be like watching a game with no fans?

Penn State wins if: the Nittany Lions establish the passing game. Penn State’s depth at running back is well noted. The passing game, meanwhile, is a little more uncertain. Tight end Pat Freiermuth is actually the team’s lead returning receiver, though Jahan Dotson did start all 13 games last season. Along with Dotson, Cam Sullivan-Brown and Parker Washington are listed as the team’s three starting receivers, and how quickly that group can synch up with Sean Clifford will be critical.

Indiana wins if: the Hoosiers offense can keep Penn State’s defense guessing. Indiana is a fun team to watch. The Hoosiers score a lot of points, though they also are prone to allow a bunch, too, though their defense has shown signs of improvement. It’s difficult to see Indiana winning a fairly low-scoring game, so if the Hoosiers can score 35-plus, they have a chance to pull off the home upset.

Count on: Brandon Smith having an impact. He appeared in all 13 games last year as a true freshman, and is listed atop Penn State’s depth chart at outside linebacker. Smith checks in at 6-foot-3, 244 pounds, and has garnered plenty of praise from teammates and coaches. His trajectory is one reason why there’s optimism the defense won’t significantly regress with Parsons opting out, with the linebacker room featuring plenty of depth and talent.

Keep an eye on: the Penn State running backs in the receiving game. Getting them move involved catching passes out of the backfield has been something of a theme that emerged this summer, with players talking about how this year’s offense might differ with Ciarrocca.

Trivia tidbit: With Journey Brown expected to possibly miss the entire season, Penn State’s leading returning rusher is actually Clifford (552 yards on 116 carries).

Predictions

John Patishnock — Penn State 37, Indiana 27

Vince Lungaro — Penn State 27, Indiana 23

FROM THE ARCHIVES: PENN STATE V. INDIANA (2016)

Trailing 24-21 entering the 4th quarter, the 2016 Penn State Football team did what they always seemed to do that season: they mounted a comeback. 

Editor of The Football Letter John Black ’62  said it best after the game in The Letter.

“After a scare by a dangerous but erratic Indiana team Saturday, Penn State’s 2016 Cinderella season continued with the Nittany Lions’ sixth consecutive Big Ten Conference win,” Black wrote.

With a win and a Michigan loss at Iowa later that evening, the Nittany Lions would find themselves in an improbable three-way tie atop the Big Ten East standings with the Wolverines and Ohio State. 

Improbable because of how Penn State started its campaign at 2-2 with a heartbreaking defeat at Pitt in Week 2 followed by a thumping in ‘The Big House’ in two weeks later. 

The Nittany Lions had shown in their previous five games before their matchup with the Hoosiers, however, that they had come a long way since those early season struggles. 

To get the comeback started at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, then-offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead went into his bag of tricks with the Lions near the Hoosiers’ end zone. Quarterback Trace McSorley handed the ball off to Saquon Barkley only to have Barkley turn around and pitch it back to McSorley for a flea flicker.

Photo By Steve Manuel

McSorley connected with DaeSean Hamilton for a 54-yard strike and the potent offensive attack for Penn State was rolling once again. 

Another Indiana score on its next possession gave them back the lead.

A 7-play, 57-yard drive was capped off by two determined runs from Barkley and put Penn State ahead once more at 35-31 with just over four minutes to go. 

After a fourth-down stop by the Penn State defense resulted in a Tyler Davis field goal for the blue and white, the Hoosiers became desperate. 

Dropping back to pass on his own side of the field, IU quarterback Richard Lagow was smacked by a rushing Brandon Bell and the ball popped free.

There to scoop it up was defensive end Torrence Brown who barely stayed on his feet and drove into the end zone to put the Nittany Lions up 14 with less than a minute to go and effectively put the game on ice. 

The win marked the first time Penn State had won six-consecutive Big Ten games in the same season since 1994. 

Photo By Steve Manuel

James Franklin said afterward as Black reflected in the Football Letter, “We didn’t panic. Our defense kept us in the game, and we found a different way to win on the road. That’s an important trait for a young team still under development.”

Michigan would indeed fall in defeat at Iowa later that evening to put the Lions in a tie for first in their division.

As Black noted after the game, “Penn State will have more opportunities to make this season even more memorable than it already is.” 

Safe to say, a Big Ten Championship title later, the Nittany Lions came through on those opportunities.

Penn Staters At The Next Level: Week 6

While Miles Sanders makes his return to our Penn Staters At The Next Level series for Week 6, we also highlight two new faces in Amani Oruwariye and DaQuan Jones. 

Amani Oruwariye, CB, Detroit Lions

Oruwariye continues to improve and has become a steady presence in a Lions secondary that badly needed some consistent performers. 

He was tasked with locking down Jaguars star DJ Chark Jr. and was well up to the challenge, holding the wide receiver to just 43 yards on a game-high 14 targets. 

Oruwariye also recorded two tackles and two passes defended as the Lions improved to 2-3 on the season following a bye week in Week 5. 

Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

Photo By Steve Manuel

For the first time this season, Sanders rushed for over 100 yards as Philadelphia nearly pulled off an incredible comeback over the Baltimore Ravens. 

His 74-yard rush in the third quarter saw Sanders fumble near the goal line but the ball was recovered in the end zone by teammate JJ Arcega-Whiteside for an Eagles touchdown. 

Unfortunately for Sanders, he left the game with a knee injury and did not return. The Eagles have already announced he will miss the team’s Thursday Night Football clash against the Giants in Week 7. 

DaQuan Jones, DL, Tennessee Titans

Photo By Steve Manuel

In his return to action after testing positive for COVID-19 a few weeks ago, Jones sacked Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and notched another four tackles.

Now that’s how you mark your comeback into the lineup. 

The Titans remained undefeated on the season by defeating Houston in a 42-36 thriller. 

Nittany Lions In The NFL
Baltimore Ravens (1): Trace McSorley
Buffalo Bills (1): Ryan Bates
Carolina Panthers (2): Yetur Gross-Matos, Shareef Miller 
Chicago Bears (2): Jordan Lucas, Allen Robinson II
Dallas Cowboys (2): Sean Lee, Connor McGovern
Denver Broncos (2): DaeSean Hamilton, KJ Hamler 
Detroit Lions (3): Jason Cabinda, Jesse James, Amani Oruwariye
Green Bay Packers (1): Adrian Amos 
Houston Texans (1): John Reid 
Indianapolis Colts (1): Robert Windsor 
Las Vegas Raiders (2): Nick Bowers, Carl Nassib
Los Angeles Rams (1): Nick Scott
Miami Dolphins (1): Mike Gesicki
Minnesota Vikings (1): Dan Chisena 
New Orleans Saints (1): Blake Gillikin 
New York Giants (3): Saquon Barkley, Cam Brown, Austin Johnson
New York Jets (1): Sam Ficken, Chris Hogan, Ross Travis
Philadelphia Eagles (2): Miles Sanders, Trevor Williams, Shareef Miller
Pittsburgh Steelers (1): Marcus Allen, Stefen Wisniewski 
San Francisco 49ers (2): Kevin Givens, Robbie Gould 
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3): Chris Godwin, A.Q. Shipley, Donovan Smith 
Tennessee Titans (2): Jack Crawford, DaQuan Jones
Washington Football Team (1): Troy Apke 

Nittany Lions On NFL Coaching Staffs
Matt Rhule – Carolina Panthers Head Coach
Tom Bradley – Pittsburgh Steelers DBs Coach
Bobby Engram – Baltimore Ravens TEs Coach
Al Golden – Cincinnati Bengals LBs Coach
D’Anton Lynn – Houston Texans Secondary Coach
Mike Munchak – Denver Broncos OL Coach
Jeff Nixon – Carolina Panthers Senior Offensive Assistant

Penn State’s Most Memorable Teams: 1982

Gregg Garrity’s Sugar Bowl touchdown landed him on the cover of Sports Illustrated, one of the lasting images from Penn State’s first national title. Image credit: Sports Illustrated

Editor’s note: Throughout the season, we’re looking at Penn State’s most memorable teams from the past 40 years. We start with the season that launched the Nittany Lions into a player on the national stage, 1982, and fans can hear more about this landmark season on this week’s episode of The Football Letter Live.

After Penn State football spent the late 1960s and 1970s knocking on the door of national prominence, the Nittany Lions burst through during the 1980s.

Two national championships. Five seasons of 10-plus wins. Defining plays. Increased national media exposure, including Joe Paterno becoming the first college football coach that Sports Illustrated named as Sportsman of the Year — at a time when the publication was the leading authority in sports media.

Totaled together, the decade eliminated any doubt that Penn State was simply just a regional power in college football. The Nittany Lions transformed into a national contender, with 1982 serving as the launching point after Penn State earned its first national title with a thrilling win over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

Covering the team in the early years of his succeeding The Football Letter creator, Ridge Riley, current editor John Black capped off the landmark season with an opening paragraph that paid homage to both Riley and the humble beginnings of Penn State football. 

In the lead to The Football Letter detailing the epic bowl victory, Black referenced Riley’s landmark book, The Road to Number One, writing: 

“The Road to Number One began its long and tortuous route on Old Main lawn 96 years ago when George Linsz showed up one autumn afternoon in 1887 with his funny looking oblate spheroid. It reached its goal the night of Jan. 1, 1983, in the New Orleans Superdome, where the Nittany Lions knocked aside previously undefeated and top-ranked Georgia, 27-23, in the 49th Sugar Bowl Classic to claim their first national championship.”

Black weaved additional reference to Riley and his book throughout the intro, writing how Paterno and Penn State were greeted with fans upon landing in Harrisburg, and then along the entire route back to Happy Valley. Back in State College, President John W. Oswald declared to the team, “You inspire us all to excellence,” Black wrote, adding that Paterno closed out the rally at Old Main by saying, “Let’s be No. 1 not only this year, but forever.”

The Football Letter editor John Black chronicled Penn State’s first national title, with the championship edition coming during Black’s early years of succeeding Ridge Riley, who created The Football Letter in 1938.

Penn State jumped to a 20-10 halftime lead before a record Sugar Bowl crowd of 78,124, with Gregg Garrity’s iconic touchdown catch from Todd Blackledge providing the winning cushion in the fourth quarter. Georgia added a touchdown with less than five minutes remaining but couldn’t close the gap, resulting in the 27-23 victory for the Nittany Lions. 

“It was just your basic streak,” demurred Garrity after the game,” Black reported. “We usually throw that pass to the tailback, but the safety stopped on Curt (Warner) along the hashmark and I was open.”

Black continued: 

Dooley (Vince Dooley, Georgia’s coach) and Paterno saw it a little bit differently.

Dooley called it the key play of the game. “Everybody talks about (Kenny) Jackson and they call Garrity the other receiver,” he moaned. That’s some other receiver!”

Paterno said, “We had been running effectively. It was a good play action fake, a great pass and a great catch. It was a clutch play. We had been struggling in the second half till then.”

Garrity totaled four catches for 116 yards, while Blackledge finished 13-for-23 and 228 yards, to go with the 47-yard scoring strike to Garrity. Warner, meanwhile, out-rushed Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker (117-103)

The Sugar Bowl ended up being the last game as a Nittany Lion for Blackledge, who declared for the NFL Draft. After defeating Georgia, Blackledge discussed the impending decision, saying that if he did come back, he’d be more concerned with repeating as national champs than winning the Heisman Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top player. 

As Black pointed out, either Blackledge or Warner might’ve had a good chance of winning the honor if Penn State wasn’t such a balanced team, though as Warner astutely mentioned on a national TV appearance following the win, “You have to make some sacrifices to be a national champion.”

As a good indicator that Paterno’s Grand Experience had been highly successful up to that point — and would continue to be so for three more decades — here’s what Blackledge said about what he valued most about his Penn State experience:

“The preparation Penn State and the coaches have given me for life away from college and away from football. The confidence to use my abilities in whatever way I can.”

Todd Blackledge received the game’s Miller-Digby Award as the Most Outstanding Player of the Sugar Bowl. Photo credit: Allstate Sugar Bowl

Penn State qualified for the Sugar Bowl by battling through one of the nation’s toughest schedules, beating traditional powers Nebraska and Notre Dame, and finishing off the regular season with a victory over Pitt. The one blemish was a 42-21 loss to Alabama in the middle of the season, though the Nittany Lions responded by beating their next opponents 201-48, before clashing with Georgia. 

Black laid out the prospects for Penn State in a preseason edition of The Football Letter that looked ahead to the season opener against Temple, even including how “the ’82 season is a tailgater’s dream with every September Saturday scheduled for a fall frolic in the vale of old Mt. Nittany.” 

Aside from the Sugar Bowl, the 27-24 victory over Nebraska in the season’s fourth game is the contest many fans remember most vividly from that year and showed signs that 1982 would be the year when things would break the Nittany Lions way. 

Black started that edition of The Football Letter in memorable fashion, transforming into the role of a professor and laying out a pop quiz with 12 questions. There was a lot to digest after Penn State’s memorable come-from-behind victory, a win capped with a two-yard touchdown pass from Blackledge to tight end Kirk Bowman, who made a spectacular catch with only a few seconds remaining. 

Penn State alumnus and author Michael Weinreb — a frequent contributor to the Penn Stater magazine — detailed attending the game as a youngster in the preface to his impressive book, Season of Saturdays. 

I strongly recommend getting a copy so you can read the entire entry, though I’m guessing Penn State fans can relate to the sense of wonder that Weinreb shares in these two sections:

The home team led 14-0 early, and then they trailed 24-21 late in the fourth quarter, and I could not see most of what happened after that, because I was too small and everyone around me was standing and I was engulfed in a thicket of down jackets and cigar smoke and pocket radio antennas and the voice of a guy named Steve was critiquing the play-calling

Shortly after:

There was a throw to the sideline, to a Penn State tight end who was clearly out of bounds but was ruled in bounds, for reasons that either defy explanation or raise suspicion, depending upon one’s perspective; there was a throw to the end zone, to a klutzy tight end whose nickname was actually stone hands, who cradled the pass in his arms and toppled to the ground for the game-winning touchdown. And I remember the quake and the aftershocks inside the stadium, and I remember the bacchanalia outside, and I remember listening to the radio broadcast in the car, and I remember watching the highlights on the news and on television the next morning, and I remember thinking that I would never, in the course of my life, see anything bigger than that again.

In a way, Weinreb was right. Seeing that game at that age is an experience that can never be replicated. Just the same, a senior standing in the front row of Nittanyville after camping outside Beaver Stadium won’t have that same experience again the following year, or the following decade. 

The last 40 years of Penn State football have provided plenty of these moments for alumni and fans, and we’re looking forward to sharing as many as possible this season. 

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Not yet an Alumni Association member? Click here.

Penn Staters At The Next Level: Week 5

It was another impressive performance from Allen Robinson II, while Miles Sanders starred in his homecoming.

Here were this week’s standout Nittany Lion performers in the NFL for Week 5.

Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

Despite his team’s loss to the Steelers in the battle of Pennsylvania’s two teams, Sanders had a productive outing in his return to his native Pittsburgh.

Sanders collected his career-long rush with a 74-yard gallop to the end zone in the first quarter.

He posted a second touchdown midway through the second quarter by powering through a few defenders at the goal line to tie the score at 14. 

Sanders leads the Eagles in rushing yards with 316 on the season.

Mike Gesicki, TE, Miami Dolphins

Photo By Steven Manuel

Speaking of career longs, Gesicki posted his longest NFL catch to date with a 70-yard catch on a beautifully run route against the 49ers.

Gesicki was tabbed by many to be a breakout player at the tight end position this season and he has not disappointed. He seems to be getting better each week and has developed a great rapport with Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. 

The former Penn State star is second on the team in receptions (18) and yards (281) this season. He’s also found the end zone twice.  

Allen Robinson II, WR, Chicago Bears

Photo By Steve Manuel

In a weekend full of upsets, Robinson II and the Chicago Bears got the party started on Thursday night football in a 20-19 upset over Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

He was Nick Foles’ favorite target in the win, snagging 10 catches on 16 targets for 90 yards.

Robinson II currently sits sixth in the league with 35 receptions and eighth in receiving yards with 421. 

Not bad for a receiver playing for an offense that has struggled to move the ball with consistency early this season. 

Nittany Lions In The NFL
Baltimore Ravens (1): Trace McSorley
Buffalo Bills (1): Ryan Bates
Carolina Panthers (2): Yetur Gross-Matos, Shareef Miller 
Chicago Bears (2): Jordan Lucas, Allen Robinson II
Dallas Cowboys (2): Sean Lee, Connor McGovern
Denver Broncos (2): DaeSean Hamilton, KJ Hamler 
Detroit Lions (3): Jason Cabinda, Jesse James, Amani Oruwariye
Green Bay Packers (1): Adrian Amos 
Houston Texans (1): John Reid 
Indianapolis Colts (1): Robert Windsor 
Las Vegas Raiders (2): Nick Bowers, Carl Nassib
Los Angeles Rams (1): Nick Scott
Miami Dolphins (1): Mike Gesicki
Minnesota Vikings (1): Dan Chisena 
New Orleans Saints (1): Blake Gillikin 
New York Giants (3): Saquon Barkley, Cam Brown, Austin Johnson
New York Jets (1): Sam Ficken, Chris Hogan, Ross Travis
Philadelphia Eagles (2): Miles Sanders, Trevor Williams 
Pittsburgh Steelers (1): Marcus Allen, Stefen Wisniewski 
San Francisco 49ers (2): Kevin Givens, Robbie Gould 
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3): Chris Godwin, A.Q. Shipley, Donovan Smith 
Tennessee Titans (2): Jack Crawford, DaQuan Jones
Washington Football Team (1): Troy Apke 

Nittany Lions On NFL Coaching Staffs
Matt Rhule – Carolina Panthers Head Coach
Tom Bradley – Pittsburgh Steelers DBs Coach
Bobby Engram – Baltimore Ravens TEs Coach
Al Golden – Cincinnati Bengals LBs Coach
D’Anton Lynn – Houston Texans Secondary Coach
Mike Munchak – Denver Broncos OL Coach
Jeff Nixon – Carolina Panthers Senior Offensive Assistant

Alan Zemaitis’ Sense of Service

Penn State letterman Alan Zemaitis is leading an inspiring community service initiative at Susquehanna University, called Season of Service. The former Penn State cornerback is an assistant coach at Susquehanna, which has had its season canceled because of COVID-19. Photo credit: Susquehanna University Athletics

Susquehanna University isn’t playing football this season, which means Penn State letterman Alan Zemaitis ’05 isn’t coaching this season, at least not on the field. But as Penn Staters know, coaches have an impact beyond the gridiron, and Zemaitis is embodying that sense of leadership with a community service project he’s spearheading.

The 2005 graduate who helped fuel the Nittany Lions’ 11-win season that year is an assistant coach with Susquehanna, which had its season canceled because of COVID-19.

He’s ensuring that the team stays busy, however, coordinating a town-gown collaboration with his players called Season of Service, which fans can read more about on Susquehanna’s website. One of the goals is to hopefully bridge racial divisions, and one of the early projects is to improve a nonprofit playground in the community and to engage with residents.

“The lack of football is an opportunity for us to get connected with the community,” Zemaitis said in the feature. “It’s the most diverse group at Susquehanna. We can be an example of what it means to work together. That’s how things get accomplished.”

The project is already underway, with Susquehanna sharing updates in a recent feature. We’ll be sure to ask Zemaitis about this project next month, when he’s scheduled to appear on The Football Letter Live.

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For more on the The Football Letter, including online archives (requires Alumni Association member log-in), click here.

Not yet an Alumni Association member? Click here.

Penn Staters At The Next Level: Week 4

Penn State’s defensive line has been among the best units in the country in recent years. 

On Sunday, one former member of the “Wild Dogs” made his opening mark in the NFL. 

Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Carolina Panthers

Gross-Matos has been working through a minor injury early this season and had struggled to make an impact through the first three weeks.

But he flashed his potential in the Panthers’ upset win over the Cardinals on Sunday. 

YGM came up with a big sack/forced fumble in the third quarter with Arizona driving into Carolina territory, displaying a great burst off the edge to blow by Cardinals left tackle D.J. Humphries.

He would finish the game with that sack/fumble and three total tackles. 

Sam Ficken, K, New York Jets

Photo by Steve Manuel


Look, the New York Jets aren’t very good. They’re probably the worst team in the league and look a safe bet to pick No. 1 in the NFL Draft next spring.

One glimmer of positivity for the Jets, however, is former Nittany Lion place kicker Sam Ficken.

Ficken made all five of his field goal attempts — including a season-long boot of 54-yards — and his lone extra point try. 

He nailed a 36-yard attempt in the 4th quarter to give his team a 28-27 before the Jets collapsed late in the game. 

Donovan Smith, OT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Photo By Steve Manuel

Donovan Smith anchored the left side of the Tampa Bay offensive line as the group protected QB Tom Brady almost perfectly on Sunday.

The Buccaneers offense put up 484 yards of total offense in a 38-31 win over the Chargers and Brady stayed clean in the pocket.

The Chargers defensive line, one of the better pass-rushing groups in the league, didn’t bring down Brady for a single sack thanks to Smith and his teammates up front. 

After an up-and-down first few games, Smith and the rest of Tampa’s offense is starting to gel, even with injuries to former Nittany Lion Chris Godwin and Leonard Fournette. 

Allen Robinson II, WR, Chicago Bears

We normally only highlight three Nittany Lions who had a standout week in the NFL, but Robinson II made that impossible. 

He’s now featured in our NFL recap three out of the first four weeks of the season. 

While Chicago’s offense was stagnant for much of the afternoon in its loss to Indianapolis, Robinson shined once more. 

ARob led his team in receiving yards again with 101 yards on seven receptions, marking his second-straight 100-yard game. 


He made a trademark leaping grab over a Colts defender late in the fourth quarter to give him his second touchdown grab of the season. 

Nittany Lions In The NFL
Baltimore Ravens (1): Trace McSorley
Buffalo Bills (1): Ryan Bates
Carolina Panthers (2): Yetur Gross-Matos
Chicago Bears (2): Jordan Lucas, Allen Robinson II
Dallas Cowboys (2): Sean Lee, Connor McGovern
Denver Broncos (2): DaeSean Hamilton, KJ Hamler 
Detroit Lions (3): Jason Cabinda, Jesse James, Amani Oruwariye
Green Bay Packers (1): Adrian Amos 
Houston Texans (1): John Reid 
Indianapolis Colts (1): Robert Windsor 
Las Vegas Raiders (2): Nick Bowers, Carl Nassib
Los Angeles Rams (1): Nick Scott
Miami Dolphins (1): Mike Gesicki
Minnesota Vikings (1): Dan Chisena 
New Orleans Saints (1): Blake Gillikin 
New York Giants (3): Saquon Barkley, Cam Brown, Austin Johnson
New York Jets (1): Sam Ficken, Chris Hogan, Ross Travis
Philadelphia Eagles (2): Miles Sanders, Trevor Williams 
Pittsburgh Steelers (1): Marcus Allen, Stefen Wisniewski 
San Francisco 49ers (2): Kevin Givens, Robbie Gould 
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3): Chris Godwin, A.Q. Shipley, Donovan Smith 
Tennessee Titans (2): Jack Crawford, DaQuan Jones
Washington Football Team (1): Troy Apke 

Nittany Lions On NFL Coaching Staffs
Matt Rhule – Carolina Panthers Head Coach
Tom Bradley – Pittsburgh Steelers DBs Coach
Bobby Engram – Baltimore Ravens TEs Coach
Al Golden – Cincinnati Bengals LBs Coach
D’Anton Lynn – Houston Texans Secondary Coach
Mike Munchak – Denver Broncos OL Coach
Jeff Nixon – Carolina Panthers Senior Offensive Assistant

Face of the Penn State Community

James Franklin leads Penn State onto the field for the 2019 Citrus Bowl. Franklin has guided the Nittany Lions to a winning record and a bowl appearance in each of his first six seasons, in addition to being a visible figure in the community. Photo by Steve Manuel.

You wouldn’t think that a nearly half-a-million dollar gift would go under the radar, though in 2020, nothing should surprise us.

That’s where we are, and it feels like that’s what happened, when James Franklin announced in July that he and his wife, Fumi, raised $462,500 for The Franklin Family Educational Equity Scholarship, which the couple established in fall 2019.

This was before the 2020 season seesawed between being on and off, and back on again, and you can read Franklin’s message he posted to Twitter below.

A college football coach and his family raising such an impressive amount of money for such a worthy cause is admirable, and perhaps one reason why there wasn’t more attention paid to this is because this overwhelming generosity is who Penn Staters are and it’s what we do. In many ways, the high standard is the norm.

Still, it’s worth pointing out the message this sends: Yes, Franklin is the football coach, and at Penn State, that’s an awfully big deal, though his title doesn’t describe Franklin’s entire contributions to the University. In terms of showing that he’s committed to Penn State and the legion of alumni and fans who follow his team, this is a crystal-clear sign that Franklin is all in, and has been for some time.

Many of the football student-athletes have been showing an incredible level of maturity and leadership off the field, and it shouldn’t be surprising when you look at the model that Franklin sets. Just this week, he emphasized the importance of voting — without advocating for anyone or any particular party, just that it’s important to have your voice heard — when discussing the voting PSAs that the team has shared on social media recently.

With Franklin, you get it all. It’s a lot to ask for in a coach, though when you get it, the result is a ton of on-field success, impact off the field, and an ongoing legacy that hits home with players and recruits.

“Coach Franklin does a great job in this program of being a leader,” standout tight end Pat Freiermuth said Friday during the team’s virtual media days. “I think that he gives everyone answers that sometimes you don’t really like to hear, but I think that he does a great job of demanding excellence and demanding perfection. At the end of the day, he’s always going to love you.”

“I think that’s what you want as a head coach — and a guy who is at such a prominent university and who loves their football — to lead the whole community really. He’s the face of the whole Penn State community, and I think that he does it in a really great way. If you’re a recruit, I just don’t get why you wouldn’t come to Penn State, especially if you’re from around this area, because it has everything a recruit wants or a college student needs or wants.”

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The Football Letter Live: Week 5

The Football Letter Live rolls on this evening, with the season’s fifth episode focusing on the Blue Band and the Alumni Blue Band.

Alumni and fans can register online or tune in on Facebook at 8 p.m. tonight. Penn Staters can also watch all previous season episodes on our website.

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Not yet an Alumni Association member? Click here.